Origin of The Tarot of Frown Strong (Frownstrong Tarot)…and why it is now The Tarot of Virsel

What appears below is a true account of The Frownstrong Tarot from its originator.

A statement from the creator.

All 21 cards of the Tarot of Frown Strong, now the Tarot of Virsel.
The Virsel Tarot, formerly the Frownstrong Tarot.

The idea of making a tarot pack occurred in 1970, when a small group of worldly esoteric travellers were following the leadership of a few members of another highly esoteric group (based in North London) known as the Armin family. The family were Raymond, Violet and John Armin. The travellers were a group (mostly American) who were at that time passing through England on their way back to America, Canada and other places after a trip to the other side of the world. It was John Armin (an ambulance man at the time), who introduced the small group to the family. This happened because, during a work shift, he was called to transport a woman to hospital with an urgent medical condition and during the journey to hospital, a conversation developed about a book that she was carrying with her to the hospital. Her name was Heidi Bergman (an American), the book was titled ‘A New Model of the Universe’ by the Russian author P.D. Ouspensky.

Upon arrival at the hospital they agreed to meet again a few weeks later on a Sunday at Hyde Park Corner (near where Bergman was staying). Both Armin and Bergman were on time but in the wrong place as they both went to Marble Arch (at completely the other end of Hyde Park), a curious event. After talking for some time, they went to Kilburn where the rest of her group were staying/living. Another conversation began which went on for over 12 hours, about the arts and practices of the esoteric, occult and religious worlds, all by what they had themselves been searching for, experienced, found across the world and what was known and practised by the Armin family.

Some time into the conversation Raymond Armin joined them in Kilburn, after which it was agreed that they should all meet again very soon and it all continued on from there. A group was formed (with no name or control) and this now larger group met at different houses, John’s, Raymond’s, theirs and so on. There were no leaders as such and there were no pre-set works to do other than what was at the time. It was more of a gathering of like-minded and of kind people, than a special group of some kind. 

This went on for about 18/24 months during which time the gatherings had taken on a stance with the work they were doing. The nature of the meetings had changed from a casual endeavour of life to one of purpose and involvement. During such changes it becomes apparent that what one has isn’t always enough to accomplish a project or study of work and one requires more, because of which the whole work of the group was focused on the ‘DIVINATORY’ nature of the work (the Work being the name that ‘the work’ was called).

The date was 1972, when it was mentioned by John Armin that everyone should try to make for themselves their own tarot pack. This was readily accepted and the whole group began to do so. Several of the group knew of ‘The symbolism of the Tarot’ by P.D.Ouspensky and designed their tarot upon it, including both Raymond and John Armin. In the 1970’s Tarot was not so well known and not much was available for drawing idea and inspiration upon, and so it was that eventually there were only a few of the group that actually managed to make a pack (and then only the Major Arcana).

One person in the group, a man who eventually called himself Tagir (an artist by profession), managed to do so and was eventually responsible for the design of many of the Emin tarot packs that followed over the years. By 1974 the group and work had changed, there were many new members, and now used halls instead of front rooms and so on.

The group had formed into an esoteric society calling themselves ‘The Emin’. The work of The Emin Society remained and continued on in divinatory form, which meant that other tarot packs were designed and worked upon in groups at meetings and so on. The tarot packs that the Armins had made years earlier were never to that point in time a part of what was going on with the Emin work in those areas.  

The Emin had developed several other packs e.g. The Gemrod pack, the Dear Dragon pack and more, but not the Frownstrong Tarot, which only became involved because a new book had been written by Raymond Armin, who by then was calling himself Leo (John Armin calling himself Orman), as it was the practice at that time to release a new tarot deck with each book (hence the reason why they were all named after the book that they were released alongside). By that time the Emin had stopped using halls and had a base at Putney in London, a large foundation and building where the whole event of the Emin took place.

At that time John Armin was the managing director of the Emin administration and publishing company.  John Armin offered the use of his tarot pack to accompany the book, which was accepted and agreed to, but not to anything other than just as a publication alongside the book. John Armin (Orman) then employed an artist (a member of the Emin at that time, whose name was James) over a period of months to paint the originals from which transparencies were made and a tarot pack in a box was printed and produced, the date was 1976. The first publication was in 1976 by a company called “Esoteric and Occult Productions Ltd” owned by John Armin.

All monies that were paid for this, the origination work, the artist, the publications and more, were paid privately by John Armin (it was his own pack). During the process the Albert and Victoria Museum in London were involved making and doing some of the original work on the transparencies by their own photographic department, as outdoor work for them (they did that in those days). This then when completed, was added to the book ‘Frownstrong’ in the form of the 22 cards, a small booklet written by John Armin, in a black box and was given the name ‘The Tarot of Frownstrong’. It was also published (by John Armin’s doing and under his own direction) with various other interested parties e.g. New York games systems, Waddington’s games and others.  

The Tarot pack itself never left John Armin’s ownership or copyright, which is still in those same hands today. It was never offered by contract or any other form of agreement with anyone, even to or in the Emin Society or their associates (known by whatever name) or own business forms. Over the last 30/40 years the Emin has made many claims to both its history, sold packs and several times tried to reproduce and publish the pack again (sometimes with clever card changes to alter its form), without John Armin’s permission or agreement.

No monies whatsoever have been paid in return from sale and so on from them (the Emin) or anyone else for that matter. As at this time “30th August 2019,” The Tarot of Frownstrong has been renamed ‘The New Tarot of Virsel’ and will be going through a series of updates and additions to complete what was an original first idea 42 years before.


John Armin (Orman)
The Originator, Founder, Designer, Manufacturer and Copyright holder/owner of this tarot pack.